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News - 2 September 2006
David Lepper, Brighton Pavilion Labour and Co-operative MP

Should shoplifting be downgraded?

A suggestion to remove the threat of custodial sentencing for repeat shoplifting offences has been put before the Government. Brighton Pavilion Labour and Co-operative MP David Lepper has taken a stand against such action saying that it will send out the message that shoplifting is not a very serious offence.

David, who has championed the interests of small traders in numerous debates, said, “The panel is currently consulting on the way convicted shoplifters are dealt with. One of the two options to be considered removes the threat of a custodial sentence. Even severe repeat offenders would not face prison, instead being issued with a community order.

“Like the British Retail Consortium and the government-backed Action Against Business Crime I am concerned that downgrading the threat of prison for shoplifting offences gives criminals the green light to rip-off retail outlets.

“Police and traders working together in the city centre in Brighton & Hove have made real strides over the last few years to tackle retail crime and were praised two years ago by the Home Office Minister Hazel Blears when she visited the offices of the city centre Business Forum to hear about the scheme.

“Shoplifting can be highly organised and it is the small traders as well as the big stores that can be the victims,” said David.

In a recent blitz on shoplifting in Brighton 20 of the most prolific offenders were removed from the area. The result of this action was a 45% reduction in reported offences and a saving of £600,000 a year to businesses. On this basis alone it is not acceptable to treat shoplifting as a petty crime but it is even more serious. Shoplifting is often done to feed drug addiction and in these circumstances the implications can be quite serious.

David claims, “It is not acceptable to treat shoplifting as a petty or victimless crime. I’ve recently been campaigning with Usdaw, the shopworkers union, about the violence and abuse shopworkers can suffer. Unfortunately shoplifting can be linked to violence, threats and intimidation of staff and there is strong evidence that shoplifting is part of the wider problem of drug abuse and organised crime.

“There will be situations where a community -based sentence is more appropriate and it should not be regarded as a soft option. But I believe a lot of good work between the police and business community will be undermined if the threat of prison is removed completely.

“I hope the government will decide after consultation to reject that option,” added David Lepper.

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Lepper, David

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